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How Kawhi Leonard became the most beloved athlete in Canada

Kawhi Leonard's bouncing buzzer-beater in Raptors' Game 7 win had everyone in absolute awe.

Kawhi Leonard ended the Philadelphia 76ers' season with a buzzer-beater that will be remembered forever by NBA fans as it bounced off the rim a number of times before falling in and giving the Toronto Raptors a 92-90 Game 7 victory.

The arena seemed to go silent as the ball bounced off the rim and then the place exploded as the ball fell through the hoop. It gave Leonard 41 points for the game and it instantly became the biggest shot in franchise history.

The Raptors advance to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, but for right now it's all about that shot and how everyone was in awe of it.

First, the shot:

“Is this The Dagger?!?”


Kawhi’s shot as phenomenal as The Call by Kevin Harlan

Kawhi squatting on the sideline trying to get the shooters bounce and will the ball into the basket is everything.

Toronto closed out the Warriors with a 114-110 win at Oracle Arena on Thursday in Game 6 of the Finals to win their first title in franchise history.

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points to lead the Raptors to the victory while Pascal Siakam chipped in 26, as well. Klay Thompson finished with 30 points in the losing effort, but left in the third quarter with a knee injury.

The Warriors were going for their third straight championship and fourth in the last five seasons. They came up just short.

Here's three reasons why the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals: Warriors, Raptors health

The Raptors had a fantastic postseason run and no doubt earned the title. The Warriors' health, however, definitely played a factor in the final series.

Kevin Durant strained his calf in Golden State's second round series against the Rockets and did not play again until Game 5 against the Raptors. But, his return lasted less than a half as he unfortunately ruptured his Achilles after 12 minutes on the floor.

That wasn't all the injuries the Warriors dealt with in the Finals, though. Thompson was held out of Game 3 with a hamstring issue and left Thursday's matchup. DeMarcus Cousins was inconsistent as he continued to recover from a torn quad and Kevon Looney was banged up, as well.

Toronto, on the other hand, had all of its players available and had significantly better depth than Golden State. That made a difference.

Kawhi Leonard's play

Kawhi Leonard was the best player in the 2019 playoffs and it wasn't even that close.

The 27-year-old star almost single-handedly carried the Raptors to the first title in franchise history. The team went to him time and again for clutch buckets and he delivered. He even knocked down one of the biggest shots in franchise history: a crazy bouncing buzzer beater in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the 76ers in the second round.

The Raptors acquired Leonard - along with Danny Green - from the Spurs in exchange for a package centered around DeMar DeRozan in a blockbuster trade last offseason. Leonard is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent later this month.

Regardless of what happens this summer, that deal will go down as one of the best in Raptors' history and Leonard will always be remembered in Toronto.

Raptors' defensive effort

The Raptors limited the Warriors' offense throughout the series.

Toronto held Golden State to 110 points or less in all six games. Even without Durant for almost the entire series and a hobbled Thompson, the Warriors still had star Stephen Curry. The Raptors, however, held him in check and shut down Golden State's role players, for the most part.

The Raptors' defense kept them in every matchup against the Warriors, which is a big reason why the Larry O'Brien Trophy is heading to Toronto.

Will Kawhi Stay with the Raptors?

Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday's championship parade and rally.

For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP isn't saying whether he'll use it to keep a door open or close it behind him and move on.

Leonard spent several days partying with his teammates in Las Vegas and Los Angeles after last Thursday's Game 6 clincher over Golden State, returning to Toronto in time to ride in one of five open-top double-decker buses that carried the Raptors along a crowded parade route.

A three-time all-star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Leonard is expected to decline the player option on the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Toronto can offer him a five-year deal worth around $190 million US, one year and some $50 million more than any other team.

ESPN is reporting that while Leonard hasn't ruled out returning to the Raptors, the Los Angeles native is focusing on the Clippers.

You don't need too many days to figure it out. We'll see what happens.— 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the Raptors on his NBA future

Before stepping on stage Monday for a ceremony in the square outside Toronto's City Hall, Leonard said he hasn't been thinking about his future. Instead, he's trying to extend the celebratory vibe as long as possible.

"I'm enjoying this" he said. "It's not time to stress, it's still time to have some fun. I've just been enjoying my experience."'I don't believe anyone went into work today': Kawhi Leonard awestruck at Raptors parade

After two months of playoff basketball, Leonard doesn't have a lot of time left to be a fun guy -- free agency gets underway at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.

No pain, no gain

"I'm going to take the right time," he said. "You don't need too many days to figure it out. We'll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we'll all lay the pros and cons out."

Kawhi Speaking at the Toronto Raptors Parade

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